After a seven month investigation, the US Army yesterday filed 22 additional charges against Private Bradley Manning.
One of these, "aiding the enemy" is a capital offence and carries a potential death sentence. Before the latest charges, the maximum penalty faced by Manning was 52 years imprisonment.
The American Forces Press Service reports: "the new charges against Pvt. 1st Class Bradley E. Manning allege that he introduced unauthorised software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the classified data for public release and use by the enemy."
Although according to officials, the prosecution team has indicated that it will not recommend the death penalty to the convening judge, Major General Karl R. Horst, the judge can dismiss this recommendation.
These 22 new charges are in addition to 12 charges of leaking classified information and computer fraud. (The new charge sheet against Manning is posted here on Politico.) As Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube who have been following the story for MSNBC note, nowhere on the charge sheet is Wikileaks mentioned by name.
"The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private First Class Manning is accused of committing," Captain John Haberland, a legal spokesman for the military district of Washington said, insisting that they would not interfere with Manning’s right to a speedy and fair trial.
According to Wired, "The capital offense charge could have an impact on the extradition case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently battling attempts to extradite him from England to face sex-crime allegations in Sweden. Assange’s attorneys have argued that if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. could seek to extradite him to this country, where he could be charged with a capital offense."
"The assertion was considered an exaggeration at the time since even Manning himself was not facing a capital offense. But the issue is sure to figure more prominently now in Assange’s appeal of UK court’s extradition order."
While Assange appeals the Swedish extradition order, Manning has been in pre-trial confinement since 29 May 2010.
A date for his trial has not been set because Manning’s mental fitness to stand trial is still being assessed. On Tuesday, his defence lawyer David Coombs posted on his blog a prediction that this assessment would be complete in two to six weeks.
In early February, New Matilda reported on the appalling conditions under which Bradley Manning was being detained. On 1 March, Coombs reported that "PFC Manning remains in maximum custody and under prevention of injury watch". No response has been received to a complaint filed on 19 January about the conditions of his confinement.
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